BusinessNorth: Future of Farming and Rural Life Project forum draws academics, business people from around the state

More than 90 people attended a forum of “Farming and Rural life in Wisconsin, Preserving the Best, Growing Wisely,” hosted by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letter in Ashland Friday. Presenters included famed- Wisconsin author Ben Logan, UW-Stevens Point land use educator Eric Olson, and Paul DeMain, News From Indian Country editor, all of whom talked about the importance of developing agricultural resources with respect for the natural resources that ultimately sustain the farming industry.

DeMain asked participants to consider wise development of agricultural natural resources, which takes into consideration the food that is already out there, stating that people are one of the only species that ‘depends on all species’ and stated: “There’s got be be a way to develop and farm that’s a ‘northern Wisconsin way.’”

He asked developers to proceed cautiously when developing in areas of the north which were once used for gathering food and medicines important to the native peoples.

“Modern science is just now catching up with traditional knowledge of the health aspects of certain plants and herbs,” DeMain said. “Do you realize you are building in the middle of our drug store…our grocery store.”

In addition to editing News From Indian Country, DeMain is editor of a regional publication entitled Akiing, a monthly publication focusing on Anishinabeg news and events. Both papers are published in Hayward. A member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin of Ojibway descent, Demain is a past president of both the Native American Journalists Association and UNITY: Coalition of Jouranalists of Color.

Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua co-founder Warren Nelson entertained at lunch time at Northland College before the forum made the short trek to the Northern Great Lakes Visitors Center for the afternoon session, and more talk about these important economic and land use topics, which concluded with a town meeting where participants could voice their own concerns on these topics.

Previous forums were held in Menomonie and Oconomowoc, and other project activities are being planned for the next 18 months. Each forum emphasizes different issues influencing rural Wisconsin’s economic, social and cultural health.

Topics regarding food systems, land use, tourism and other sustainability subjects are being discussed, with a comprehensive final report slated to be published in the Wisconsin Academy’s quarterly “Wisconsin People and Ideas” magazine.

This 18-month project seeks to engage state residents in developing a vision for healthy and sustainable agriculture and rural life in the state. Previous forums were held in Menomonie and Oconomowoc, drawing hundreds of Wisconsin citizens for discussions on topics like food systems, innovation and land use.

Information gleaned from the forums will be used as part of a comprehensive final report that will recommend future courses of action.

Other project activities over the next 18 months will include arts and culture expositions, a statewide conference and a comprehensive final report. The Wisconsin Academy’s quarterly “Wisconsin People and Ideas” magazine will feature stories related to project themes and interests.

“The nonprofit Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters connects people and ideas from all areas of knowledge and all walks of life to advance thought and culture in our state,” said Bill Berry, communications specialist with the Wisconsin Academy. “The Wisconsin Academy’s many programs include an art gallery for Wisconsin artists; the quarterly Wisconsin People and Ideas, a magazine about Wisconsin thought and culture; public forums such as the Academy Evenings lecture series; and the Wisconsin Idea at the Wisconsin Academy, a public policy program that brings the public together with a diverse array of experts and stakeholders to find solutions to statewide problems. The Future of Farming and Rural Life in Wisconsin is an initiative in that program.”